“Speed is your friend,” says pro mountain biker Cameron Zink, 26, who has landed too many big jumps to count, including the ridiculous backflip above.
The key to riding such terrain in the first place is to keep your speed up so that the wheels can skip over obstacles. That, and Zink says you should believe in yourself. He also says you should keep your legs bent in an athletic position, keep your elbows up for better leverage on the handlebars and shock absorption, and keep your eyes focused several meters down the trail—so you don’t fixate on the obstacles at your wheel and lose your flow. “Keep your weight back, but not so much that your front wheel doesn’t do its job—maybe 70 percent on the back wheel and 30 percent up front.” Off drops, Zink says, let the bike take the hit if at all possible. “The suspension, the tires, the wheels or other parts of the bike bending—it all helps absorb the shock. Better to break the bike than any part of your body.” Got it? OK, you probably still want to start small and safe, like at Whistler Blackcomb’s, a famous bike park which offers 60 lift-accessed trails spread over 4,946 feet of the ski hill and includes jump and drop-off parks with features for every level. Take a two-hour Bike Park 101 lesson, which includes a lift ticket and a downhill rental bike ($109). Though you’ll be on a supremely stable 50-pound bike with eight-inches of shock absorption, the skills you’ll learn will transfer back to your cross-country set-up, says Whistler Blackcomb’s head of instruction Tom Radke. You graduate to larger and larger drops, eventually following just a few wheel lengths from your instructor as you both launch the lips with the surprising speed you’ll need to land them—just like Cam.